I will confess that of all the summits I’ve attended in previous years, I rarely attended keynotes and certainly did not attend two keynotes in a row. Yet here I am! It’s a privilege to join the fine cast of characters from the SQL Server community at the blogger’s table at the back of the room, directly in front of center stage.

Opening the keynote is PASS Executive Vice President, Bill Graziano, in his kilt and explaining that Day 2 of the conference is kilt day. In honor of kilt day, Bill is wearing a kilt himself. He explained over 1,000 people from 53 countries watched yesterday’s keynote. (For those of you who can’t be here in person, we wish you were here, and I would like to say that you are with us in spirit and I hope we cross paths at a future event!)

Bill is recognizing outstanding volunteers today:

  • Tim Radney
  • Jack Corbett
  • 2011 PASSion Award: Lori Edwards

Today’s keynote speaker is Quentin Clark, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President, SQL Server. Now of course SQL Server 2012 (the product formerly known as Denali) is the topic du jour, presumably with a focus on the database engine which is not really my area of expertise. Yesterday was the BI focus which was of high interest to me, but as I hear things that are interesting to the BI professional, I’ll post my thoughts here.

Quentin says there are too many features to discuss in the time allotted, therefore he will focus on his favorites, dubbed the Fantastic 12 of SQL Server 2012:

  1. Always On availability which includes a dashboard, a nice example of using business intelligence to manage IT operations.
  2. Blazing-fast performance in the database engine, SSAS, and SSIS.
  3. Rapid data exploration: Power View + PowerPivot. Yes, Power View has a space between the words and PowerPivot has no space. These are not typos.
  4. Self-Service BI: Both of these tools (the power tools listed above) are available from SharePoint to empower users while IT continues to maintain control over what they’re doing.
  5. Credible consistent data – BI Semantic Model, Data Quality Services, Master Data Services. Lara Rubbelke performed demonstrations. She emphasized that DQS is a continually learning system. Changes that you make are “remembered” in the knowledge base and recommendations are made to correct data that arrives later. She also explained ColumnStore Index.
  6. Organizational compliance – expanded audit capabilities (user defines what to audit and filtering to help users locate audited information), user-defined server roles.
  7. Peace of mind – production-simulated application testing, System Center Advisor & management Packs. Expanded Support – Premier Mission Critical.
  8. Scalable data warehousing – SQL Server appliances (optimized & pre-tuned), HW _ SW _ Support – just add power. You get to choose hardware. Appliances mean you can start working within hours – less focus on installation and configuration, more focus on using the appliance. On stage we see the appliances and Britt Johnston explains each one:
    • Dell Parallel Data Warehouse spreads queries out over 480 cores.
    • HP Enterprise Data Warehouse – full size is 4 data racks that can handle up to 700 TB of data.
    • HP Business Data Warehouse – 1 to 5 TB data, 20 minutes after power up to start loading data. Can be used in conjunction with PDW as part of hub and spoke architecture.
    • HP Business Decision Appliance. Download my whitepaper on this appliance (after registering): Introduction to the HP Business Decision Appliance.
    • New – HP Data Consolidation Appliance. First private-cloud appliance on the market. Designed for extreme availability. If drive fails, no worries. Supports 60,000 simultaneous I/Os. Designed for scale-out so that you don’t have to buy all at once. It can  handle any type of database workload.
  9. Fast time to solution – This is really tied into the appliance story.
  10. Extend any data anywhere – ODBC for Linux, greater interoperability – dew drivers for PHP, Java, Hadoop. Change Data Capture for SSIS & Oracle. Beyond relational: File table, 2D spatial, semantic search.
    • Demonstration of statistical semantic search by Michael Rys, Principal Progam Manager, SQL Server using book collection. Select a book and get recommendations of similar types of books, also keyword visualization. Click on a keyword to see documents (books) that contain the similar keyword. Semantic search identifies important terms whereas full text search is very limited linguistically. You put data into file table and run semantic indexing, then run queries to find semantic similarity. Demo shows that semantic search recognizes the difference between classical works collection and technical collection.
    • As Mark Tabladillo points out, this is really text mining.
    • It’s extending past what we had before in SSIS to do text mining and making the technology usable.
  11. Optimized Productivity – SQL Server Data Tools (formerly known as Juneau), unified across database and BI, deployment and targeting freedom. Single projects can span both types of projects.
  12. Scale on Demand –Always on, deployment across public & private. Focus on SQL Azure. Some buzz in the community about the improvements coming, but it’s hard for me to get excited. There’s not a good BI message for SQL Azure right now. It’s just a source for BI at this point. But SQL Azure size limit increasing to 150GB. I can see why that’s good news! Hey – some BI: SQL Azure Reporting CTP available and SQL Azure Data Sync CTP. I guess I’ll have to scope out this latest CTP.